The summer route is as much about the places along the route as it is the journey.
New Zealand is a region full of interesting little cities that are well worth the car hopping for – there’s our pick of stops.
If you’re traveling the far north, put Mangonui at the top of your list. This charming fishing village is known for its collection of historic buildings, which you can see on the Mangonui Heritage Trail. The fish and chips at the popular Mangonui Fish shop are also a must-have – it’s just 100 meters from the dockside, and you won’t get any freshness.
40 km north of Auckland, you will find the historic village of Puhoi. Immigrants settled from Bohemia in 1863, and the city has preserved much of its original character with its splendid old church, town hall, and small library. Stop by for a refreshment at the 140-year-old Puhoi Pub, and don’t leave without a visit to the famous Puhoi Valley Café and Cheese Shop.
Looking for a summer reading? You won’t have a hard time finding one in Featherston, Wairarapa’s very own “Booktown”. The city boasts what has to be the nation’s best collection of used and antique book stores, which you can spend hours looking at.
After driving the Great Coast Road between Westport and Greymouth, continue heading south and you’ll end up at Hokitika – one of the West Coast’s finest gems. Thought to be greater per capita galleries than anywhere in the country, plus some quirky little restaurants, it’s the perfect place to stop by on a rainy day.
This lovely little town in South Canterbury is craving as bikelets with jam and cream – which is fitting, considering it’s the birthplace of the famous Parker jam. Geraldine is a foodie dream, so make sure you arrive hungry. Sample some of the group at Talbot Forest Cheese, treat yourself to handcrafted chocolates at The Cottage Pantry and Gallery, or stop for lunch at one of the city’s cozy cafes.
Amarama is the gateway to Aoraki on Mount Cook to the north, and Queenstown to the south. But it is worth stopping for a while in this cross town, nestled between picturesque mountains and lakes. Relax after a long hike with a soak at Hot Tubs Omarama (cool bathtubs also available), and if you can, stay up to the dark so you can watch the stars under one of the country’s clearest spots of sky.
Moeraki may be synonymous with rocks, but Waitaki – only five minutes down the road from a geological wonderland – is worth a stop in its own right. No visit to this sleepy fishing village is complete without trying one of the country’s finest seafood restaurants, Fleur’s Place. There are also some great hiking trails where you can see fur seals and yellow-eyed penguins.
Although it is not as famous as some of its central Otago neighbors, the Ranforli is a nugget of real gold. Most visitors fall into Manyototo, on two wheels, on the Otago Central Railway route. But if you’re traveling by car, it’s worth stopping by to admire the lovely buildings in town – Ranfurly boasts the best collection of Art Deco structures south of Napier.